Fallen first responders, vets honored in Court of Valor ceremony
Most of the top of the monument is made of translucent glass, clear silhouettes of a police officer, firefighter and medical technician surrounded by a mosaic gradient of red and blue pieces of stained glass.
A large, squat stone forms the base of the Safekeepers Shrine. It bears the names of the 33 York County emergency responders killed in the line of duty.
The first three names are from April 6, 1904, when a big blaze claimed the lives of York City firefighters John H. Saltzgiver, Horace F. Strine and Lewis M. Strubinger; the last is from April 27, 2013, when a now-convicted drunken driver struck and killed Loganville Fire Chief Rodney P. Miller.
A big crowd turned out on a beautiful fall day for the annual Court of Valor ceremony Sunday afternoon in Prospect Hill Cemetery in York City, during which 15 names were added to the Court of Valor archway and the Safekeepers Shrine monument a little way up the hill was unveiled.
Many emergency responders of all sorts, from Shrewsbury and York City fire departments to Northern York County Regional and York Area Regional police departments, were on hand, as well as local and state officials.
'In my blood': After York City councilman Henry Nixon read the names of the emergency responders, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency director Richard D. Flinn Jr. spoke. He talked briefly about his 46-year-long career, which started when he became a junior firefighter at age 15 and included a stint in the military.
"It's in my blood," he said, saying that's the case for pretty much all emergency responders.
More than 90 percent of people think more should be done to support emergency responders, but only a third of people have contributed to a cause that does so, he said. He encouraged people to give a little bit of time or money — "You don't have to empty your wallet" to make a difference, he said.
After an emergency medical helicopter that had been sitting in a nearby field for the occasion took off, flew away and then circled back for a flyby, the ceremony moved on to the veterans portion of the event. The Court of Valor, originally dedicated in 2009, is an arch supporting a 9-foot-11-inch piece of beam from the World Trade Center towers, which had been destroyed in a terrorist attack 14 years and two days earlier. The names of decorated local military personnel adorn the arch; with the addition of 15 names this year, 355 are now carved into the stone around the American flag that hangs in the archway.
Veterans: Lt. Col. J.T. Hand spoke about a post-battle roll call, one where anyone who wasn't there to answer "present" had paid the ultimate price. He ordered all veterans in attendance to stand, and he called the names and ranks of a couple of the previous speakers — Flinn and Sgt. Harold Redding. "Here, sir!" they each bellowed in response to their names.
Hand moved on: "Sgt. Heede?"
"Sgt. Heede," he called again.
"Marine. Sergeant. Michael. W. Heede," he called a third time, each staccato word its own sentence.
"Record the roll," he said — Heede, of Delta, died in July 2009 in Afghanistan.
Hand called a couple of more names, including Army Cpl. Matthew Hanes, of East Manchester Township, who died in August after being shot in Afghanistan in July 2012.
As Hand talked, an ambulance that had been at the event headed west toward Pennsylvania Avenue, turned south and threw on its lights and siren. The wail faded into the distance as a couple of emergency responders headed back to work early.
— Reach Sean Cotter at email@example.com.